It’s no secret that being active will help you feel better, both physically and emotionally. Countless studies have been done on the merits of maintaining an active lifestyle, with benefits including weight loss and control, improved mood, and increased daily energy levels, among other things. While these perks are widely known and clearly true, we may be selling ourselves short if our routine physical activity is limited to time spent lifting weights at the gym, running on a treadmill or even practicing yoga at a local studio.
Friends of Warner Parks here in Nashville has a great section in their monthly newsletter that highlights what they call their “Green Hour Tip.” Each month, they pick a new tip to help you incorporate an hour of outdoors time into your daily schedule. Their suggestions range from planning your summer vacation around outdoor activity to washing your car by hand in the driveway. Their message is always the same – no matter what you’re doing, make it a point to spend a little extra time outdoors on a regular basis.
I’ve always enjoyed casually reading these segments, but their most recent Green Hour Tip caught my attention more than ones had in months past. In September’s newsletter, they take note of a trend occurring at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Here, doctors are beginning to prescribe outdoor activity as a treatment to improve the health outcomes of their patients, focusing specifically on younger children who have grown up spending more time looking at computer, tablet and cell phone screens than playing outdoors. Through their “Outdoors Rx” program, in partnership with the Appalachian Mountain Club, the hospital has trained more than 75 pediatricians to incorporate outdoor activity into their treatment repertoires. This program, doctors say, not only encourages kids to get off the couch and get active period, bringing with it all of the traditional benefits of regular exercise. Additionally, outdoor activity also promotes a “sense of wonder” in today’s youth, exposing them to the workings of the natural world in ways that textbooks and videos in science class can’t quite capture.
While such programs are vital to promoting health and wellness, the benefits of outdoor activity aren’t just available to children, but to people of all ages! As a great New York Times article from February of 2013 points out, studies have shown that adults who exercise outdoors by running or cycling have more strenuous and effective workouts than those who do the same workout routines indoors. These individuals work more muscle groups, and work them harder, than their running and cycling counterparts who exercised on treadmills or stationary bikes in the comfort of their home or local gym.
The differences don’t stop there, however, as subsequent studies have demonstrated that those who walk outdoors score “significantly higher on measures of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem and lower on tension, depression and fatigue” than those who walk indoors. To further drive home the point, an additional study found that those who exercised outdoors spent, on average, 30 minutes more per week being active than those who performed similar exercise routines indoors. Case in point: if you take your physical activity outside, you’ll not only enjoy it more, but you’ll get better results and you’ll be more likely to want to go back and do it again!
Overall, the message is clear: we not only need to get active, but we need to do at least some of it outdoors in nature. Whether your workout of choice is walking, rowing, running, cycling, climbing, yoga or anything else, find a way to take it outside! Nothing beats the feeling of the sun on your face, a cooling breeze through your hair, or the refreshing smell of the great outdoors, so take advantage of it and make a Green Hour a part of your everyday routine!
Convinced and want to put your new-found knowledge to use? Join us on our day hike along the Fiery Gizzard trail coming up next Saturday, October 18th! The 9-mile loop through some of Tennessee’s most beautiful terrain will provide you with plenty of great active time outdoors!
– Matt (Team Green’s Event Coordinator)